SOURCE Lesson Plans Detail

Senses & Illusions

Topic Illusions
Program Brown Science Prep
Developed by Dustin Hayden, Nino Bevilacqua, Jessica Faraj
Developer Type Undergraduate students

Performance / Lesson Objective(s)

Introduce students to three senses while giving them hands-on experience with how your brain tricks you.

Lesson Materials

  • Index Cards (or stiff paper)
  • Straw (or coffee stirrer)
  • Markers/Colored Pencils/Crayons
  • Stapler
  • Pipe Cleaner
  • Paper
  • Pencil Eraser
  • Miracle Berries (1 per student)
  • Lemon (1 slice per student)

Lesson Motivation

Give students a fundamental overview of sensory systems.
Get students to understand why scientists ask questions.

Lesson Activities

1. Numerous in-lesson visual and auditory illusions.
2. Creating handmade optical illusions.
3. Measuring blind spots.
4. Miracle Berries


Procedure for Auditory Exercises:
(See attached lesson plan for procedures on visual exercises, creating handmade optical illusions, measuring blind spots, and miracle berries)

Playing Tricks on Your Mind
(3 minutes) - video below
Play video. What is happening? Basically, our vision associates the lip movement with one sound and expects to hear it.
The Auditory System (5-10 minutes)
1. Ask the students what sound is
2. Sound is communicated by waves of low and high air pressure (image). Minute expansion and contraction that sources of sound make create these waves.
3. Our ears have a complex labyrinth of structures to help us change the pattern of compression and expansion into a neural signal (image).
4. Shepard Tone 
An infinitely increasing pitch. Created with multiple sounds played together but at a starting pitch such that when one goes beyond our range of hearing, it drops an octave while another has slowly crept its way into our attention.  Think of it like a barbershop spiral: infinitely moving, but ultimately going nowhere.
Fun fact: This effect is used in Super Mario 64 in the infinite staircase section and for Batman's motorcycle!

Wrap up / Conclusion

If we can so easily fool our brains - if the means by which we perceive our world are fundamentally flawed - how can we ever be sure we are seeing, hearing, or tasting the truth? Questions like this are what drive scientists to uncover the deepest mysteries of our world. 

Follow up

Supporting Web Information

Alignment Info

Audience(s) High school students
STEM Area(s) Neuroscience
Life Sciences (RI GSE) LS4.9-11.10a
Students demonstrate an understanding of human body systems by … explaining how the roles of the immune, endocrine, and nervous systems work together to maintain homeostasis.
Activity Type(s) Hands-on
Alternative Science Communication (e.g. Video, Sci-Toons, Multimedia)
Grade Level(s) High School
Version 1
Created 11/05/2014 12:09 AM
Updated 12/20/2018 11:56 AM